I think if I ever tried to figure out the answer to the question, “How long does it take to learn a foreign language completely,” I never would speak Spanish today — or any of the other languages I’ve picked up (German, French, Portuguese and some Chinese (Mandarin).
How long it takes you to learn Spanish will depend on how much time and passion you spend.
Generally, the more time you spend the more you learn.
But the real motivation for me to learn a language is connecting to another person through the filter of another culture.
When you learn a foreign language, people are usually more patient then when you are speaking in your native language. That means they listen more.
You would think that starting with so little would mean that you get less out of interacting with people, but the opposite is true.
Having less words means that people pay more attention to your body language, to the tone of your voice and to your sense of your presence.
And you pay more attention to the other person as well.
I savor that intensity. It’s a power that is harder to find when you speak your native language.
So much gets lost in fancy words and concepts.
With a foreign language, life slows down and becomes more intense.
That means that I get excited from the first phrase. I don’t think of how much time it’s taking me to learn a language completely. I focus on the quality of the connection now.
Nothing else exists.
So my advice is that you focus on the intensity and quality of your interactions with each simple phrase and let the language flow over you.
Expose yourself to the language every day. Listen to podcasts, newscasts, stories, etc.
Find someone to speak to. Do a language exchange. Your exchange partner can help you pick out new phrases to learn while you focus on the enjoyment of the interaction.
Over time, you will learn a language completely, but like me with Spanish, you won’t be able to tell anyone when exactly you went from your first phrase to “complete knowledge” (or speaking the language easily and effortlessly).
You will only know that you had fun with every conversation along the way.